This is just the tip of an iceberg that has sunk our entire society.
Millions in legal aid for asylum seekers was misspent by collapsed immigration charity
By Jack Doyle
Last updated at 7:49 AM on 12th July 2011
Millions of pounds in legal aid for immigrants and asylum seekers was misspent by a Government-backed charity, it emerged last night.
The Immigration Advisory Service has collapsed into administration after auditors uncovered the financial irregularities.
The charity received £15million a year to pay for lawyers and legal advice for 27,000 migrants trying to stay in the country.
Work over: The Immigration Advisory Service homepage on its website advises would-be users that it is in administration
But an internal audit revealed hundreds of cases where funding went to ineligible applicants.
Auditors were shocked to discover that in other cases there was no paperwork to show money was properly spent.
The charity’s bosses also said some recipients had claimed money ‘in error’ because of complex Government rules.
One successful asylum claimant was granted funding to which he was not entitled to help bring his family into the country.
However, there is no suggestion of any deliberate fraud. Critics said the revelations showed tighter checks were needed.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the think-tank Migrationwatch UK, said: ‘This is a shocking abuse of taxpayers’ money. Huge sums of public money have been given to the asylum and immigration industry – tens of millions every year.
‘It is time that the controls on that expenditure were tightened up to prevent the taxpayer being taken to the cleaners again.’
The IAS was the largest legal immigration charity in the UK and funded 13,000 asylum and 14,000 immigration cases last year. It had more than 300 staff in 14 offices across the country.
It raised £500,000 annually from clients and donations, but most of its spending last year came in a £15million grant from the Legal Services Commission, a Ministry of Justice quango.
IAS bosses pulled the plug last week after failing to agree how to repay the money. They said they had ‘no alternative’, blaming Ministry of Justice cuts to legal aid funding.
Until 18 months ago, it was run by former Tory MP Keith Best, who was fined for fraud over multiple applications for BT shares after a four-month jail term in 1987 was overturned on appeal.
The charity’s financial irregularities are believed to relate to the 2010-2011 financial year, after Best left following a restructuring. Severance payments for several staff who left that year totalled nearly £250,000.
The Legal Services Commission said: ‘LSC raised concerns around financial management and claims irregularities which prompted IAS trustees to conclude that the organisation was no longer financially viable.’
A spokesman for the charity said: ‘IAS tried to reach an agreement with LSC for an extended period to repay monies which, in common with many other firms, had been claimed in error, partly due to complex funding rules.
‘Legal aid cuts put IAS in the position of needing to fund any repayment of these monies from a much reduced income base.
‘As a result it has not proved possible to reach agreement on a way forward.’